Runners and walkers took to the streets and dirt roads as they participated in this year’s Red Mountain Half Marathon, held on October 26 at Salt River High School. The half marathon course covers a distance of 13.1 miles throughout the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Also part of the event is the youth progressive 1-mile race, for which Community youth previously completed quarter-mile legs and then came out on October 26 to complete the final quarter-mile leg.
The youth progressive mile race finished first, and after that the half marathon event kicked off. A large number of people take part in the half marathon every year; this year, there were 50 individual runners and 15 relay teams.
“I thought it was cool. Since this was my first time ever participating, for the past two weeks I have been preparing mentally and physically,” said Ernesto Lopez. “I told my family I was going to run, and at first they didn’t believe me. I did it for many reasons, such as for my family, my health and overall to challenge myself.”
Lopez ran at a 9-minute-mile pace, following two other runners who were dressed as Gumby and a banana. Halfway through, he stopped for water at one of the stations and then noticed Gumby and the banana were gone, so he thought he was falling behind. But soon he turned around and saw he was actually ahead of them.
“The hardest part for me was mile 10, because I started to get sore and I couldn’t feel my legs,” Lopez said. “But as I got closer to the finish line, I got a burst of adrenaline and started running faster, finishing in two hours and six minutes.”
Lopez’s wife, Pila Lopez, said this was a great accomplishment for her husband because it was his first half marathon. His brothers, Rito, Cruz and Luis, and their families came out to support him. His nieces and nephew made signs.
“It was fun. I had a good time, but [I was] somewhat disappointed in myself,” said another half marathon participant, Kevin Riding-In. He said that his pace was much slower than previous races; his time was 1:48:06. “I haven’t been running the long distances, like I used to,” he said. His goal for next year is to increase his road work so he can work on finishing with a better time.
“This is the third year I’ve participated with a team for the relay, and I enjoyed it tremendously,” said Josette Martinez. “Everyone is so supportive of each other’s efforts, and it helps to make the event successful. I would like to thank the [staff of the] Diabetes Prevention [Program] for all their efforts to put on this run every year.”